There are three reasons that I initially decided to run the Montreal Scotiabank half-marathon; I wanted to run a half-marathon about a month before the Goodlife Marathon; this was the Canadian Half-Marathon Championship Race so it was bound to be both competitive and exciting; my friend, Delilah, was also running.
Delilah and I decided to meet at 8:15 to travel to Parc Jean-Drapeau. But, at 8:10, the phone rang.
“Hi, I was just wondering if you’re ready yet because the bus of elite athletes is going to the park and they have room for two more if you want to go with them.”
I didn’t think twice. I quickly high-fived the boys good-bye and hurried to the elevator, contemplating that it might be faster to run down the 18 floors so that I wouldn’t miss that bus. Delilah and I did make it and sat in front of two males who talked about hoping to run the half in 65 minutes. I looked around at the other athletes playing with their ipods; the gal in front of us was talking with whom appeared to be her mother. All of this made me feel slightly out of place, but I was thrilled about it. In fact, riding the bus with the elite athletes was the highlight of Sunday’s events.
We arrived at the park with an extra 30 minutes to spare so Delilah and I planted ourselves next to a group of Quebec runners. Even though we were only a province away from home, we felt quite foreign. Many were speaking French (which both of us understand, aside from not knowing a few key running words like changerooms) but there was something – something that we wouldn’t figure out – that seemed quite different. Perhaps it was the openness of runners stripping down to their string bikini underwear in a room full of strangers before they ran.
The race itself were on the islands which are home to the Montreal Expo. That morning, wind temperatures measured 54kph in downtown Montreal, but they were even higher on the islands. Before the start, D. told me to go ahead if I wanted to but I was quite sure that it would be her who would pull ahead of me. By the 2K mark, I knew that there was no way that I would be able to run the sub-1:37 that I wanted so I decided not to push myself full force. I watched Delilah move up as I rationalized that a sub-1:45 would be great. By 4K, I was already into the Gatorade, which I hadn’t planned to do until I reached 10K, because I knew that I would need the extra fuel to get me through the course.
The course was an ugly course; the bareness of the cold spring, grey skies and strong winds did nothing to convince me otherwise. It windy and windier. I reached the 10K mark in 46 minutes and, then, it got worse. By 11k, I found myself frozen in mid-air as I tried to propel my feet forward but the wind blocked me. Somewhere between 12 and 13K, a woman clipped my heels. “Suck!” I thought. “Bite the wind like the rest of us. Don’t be a wimp and draft off someone else.” Just as she tried to pass me on my left side, the wind picked me up and threw me into her. She grabbed my left arm and gripped it, helping me find my balance. I looked at her very apologetically.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t help it.”
“I know. This really sucks.”
“How much longer are we into the wind.”
Mr. Ironman was running beside us and heard me. “You’ll get into the forest in the next kilometer and you’ll get a bit of a break. After that, it’s going to get worse.”
And no one said another word. Quite honestly, I don’t know if it really did get worse; during the entire race, we had a really strong wind that you just couldn’t get out of. When I reached the Expo ball, with its tall metal posts supporting it, I couldn’t help but think “If the wind picks me up here, I’m going to end up with a concussion. That would make a great headline: Runner suffers concussion during race.”
I crossed the finish line in 1:39:55, accepting of my time but not thrilled about it. Today, I saw my pictures and video finish (thanks to ASI photography) and thought “I look strong. I could have pushed more.” Instead, I left some fuel in the tank – which turned out to be enough to give me a good recovery run on Tuesday, a strong 5K race yesterday and a run long (18 miles, here I come) tomorrow morning.
As soon as I finished, I found D. who ran a solid 1:36. She stayed to watch the award ceremonies while I quickly headed back to the hotel to check out. I found out later that I finished third in my age group and I just squeaked into a tenth place Masters’ finish.
This race gave me everything I wanted: the distance, strong competition, excitement and, most important, a chance to race with a good running buddy.
Delilah, wearing her finisher’s medal, and me – warm and indoors!